I admit that the title - Stan Getz, Bossas And Ballads: The Lost Sessions - doesn't exactly inspire confidence. For one thing, Getz's most commercially successful work - which means essentially bossas and ballads - has already been extensively repackaged and reissued. I mean no disrespect to Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao and Astrud Gilberto or to Getz himself when I say that I do not need to buy, or indeed hear, The Girl From Ipanema ever again. We've also all invested in enough expensive reissues of albums with the promise of previously unreleased material to know that if a take didn't make the cut the first time around there was generally a good reason for leaving it off. However, this is not a reissue. It's an entire, fully coherent album of well-chosen material that wasn't released in 1989 for the extraordinary reason that the boss of A&M, the label which recorded it, despite having produced the album himself, didn't think his company was capable of marketing it. Fortunately on this occasion Herb Alpert - for it was he who was at the helm - appears to have proven himself a good deal more competent as a producer than as a record company executive. The music he recorded and then left on the shelf for a decade and a half turns out to be vintage Getz from the swansong period of his career, and much of it is simply magnificent. Getz is a difficult musician to get into perspective, not least because his sound was so entirely different from that of the dominant tenor saxophonist of his generation, John Coltrane. I recently conducted an interview with a passionate 'Trane disciple, Norwegian saxman Jan Garbarek, who will be appearing at next year's Arts Festival, who confessed that for many years he couldn't bear to listen to Getz because everything he played sounded like a refutation of the gospel according to Coltrane. In the end, even he couldn't resist the substance in his playing, but it took him a long time to come around. Getz was nicknamed 'The Sound' and during an era in which many other players appeared to be trying to make the tenor saxophone sound as ugly as possible he consistently stuck to a Lester Young-derived approach which emphasised beauty of tone and melodic invention. He always eschewed empty displays of virtuosity, and was far less affected by bebop than the majority of his contemporaries. Getz's virtuosity expressed itself in an ability to improvise beautiful melodic solos that sound easy until you try to play them or figure out how he thought of them. He could blow and swing as hard as anybody when called upon to do so, but it was the sensitive interpretations of ballads and bossas that made him one of the top-selling jazz artists of the 1950s and 60s. He first came to the fore in 1947 with The Woody Herman Second Herd on Ralph Burns' beautiful Early Autumn. He then went on to consolidate his reputation as one of the great expressive horn men with recordings such as Moonlight In Vermont with Johnny Smith and any number of small group sessions, mostly undertaken for producer Norman Granz, throughout the 50s. Commercially and artistically he struck gold in the early 60s when he discovered bossa nova and began working with the key figures in the Brazilian musical movement - Jobim, the Gilbertos, and Luis Bonfa - along with American guitarist Charlie Byrd. While Beatlemania and 'the British Invasion' were supposedly killing jazz, Getz had hit singles with Desafinado and The Girl From Ipanema, and it is hardly his fault that the latter has since become a staple of elevator and cocktail bar muzak around the world. Classic Getz bossa nova recordings like Insensatez and Manha de Carnival still sound gloriously fresh today. Bossa Nova was his commercial peak. As jazz-rock emerged in the late 60s and early 70s he experimented with electric instrumentation, most notably with pianist Chick Corea, but decided in the end that he didn't like the volume the music was played at and left Corea to reshape that band into the first Return To Forever lineup. The serenity of his playing belied a troubled personal life. He suffered from both drug and alcohol addictions at various times, and could be by turns charming and vicious in his personal and professional relationships. By the time Alpert - who having heard he was without a recording contract snapped him up for A&M - produced these sessions, his lifestyle had taken its toll on his health. He had liver cancer, and had recently recovered from a heart attack, but was reassuming control of what was left of his life and his art. He had given up drink, the cancer was briefly in remission, and these sessions were his first sober recordings in years. This time the serenity came from the heart, which is one reason these ballad performances are so moving. Another is the group empathy. Kenny Barron, who also composed half of the tracks, was by far Getz's favourite pianist, and the rhythm section of George Mraz on bass and Victor Lewis on drums plays with assurance and subtlety. The quality of the material is consistently strong, including Thad Jones' Yours And Mine and Russ Freeman and Jerry Gladstone's The Wind as well as the Barron compositions. The centrepiece, however, is the knowingly chosen Soul Eyes - a Mal Waldron tune best known as a vehicle for Coltrane which the great alternative voice of the tenor saxophone convincingly claims here as his own. Getz still had great playing in him after these dates, some of which made it to record, but this last flowering of his unique talent was cut short by his death two years later in 1991. These recordings should have been released a long time ago, but presumably A&M still doesn't know what to do with straight-ahead jazz, and the music has accordingly been licensed to Verve, the label Getz recorded for over much of his career. Better late than never.